Amerigo Vespucci

Explorer and Navigator

Amerigo Vespucci, from the 1907 work Amerigo Vespucci by Frederick A. Ober
Amerigo Vespucci, from the 1907 work Amerigo Vespucci by Frederick A. Ober. Public Domain

Amerigo Vespucci was also known as:

Americus Vespucci

Amerigo Vespucci was known for:

Determining that the lands Columbus had discovered were a completely separate continent from Asia. Both North and South America bear his name, a variation on "Amerigo." Vespucci was also a merchant with experience in banking and shipping.


Explorer and Navigator

Places of Residence and Influence:

Italy: Florence

Important Dates:

Born: March 9, 1451 (traditional; he may have been born as late as 1454)
Second Expedition sets sail: May 13 , 1501
Second Expedition returns: July 22 , 1502
Died: Feb. 22, 1512

Quotations from Amerigo Vespucci:

"The manner of their living is very barbarous, because they do not eat at fixed times, but as often as they please."

"Those new regions which we found and explored with the fleet... we may rightly call a New World... a continent more densely peopled and abounding in animals than our Europe or Asia or Africa; and, in addition, a climate milder than in any other region known to us."

About Amerigo Vespucci:

Born and raised in Florence, Amerigo Vespucci received a robust education and landed a job at Lorenzo and Giovanni de' Medici's bank. This led to some experience with ships in Sevilla, and he may have been involved with provisioning the later voyages of Columbus.

In about 1497 Vespucci appears to have begun sailing himself as a navigator, and in 1499 he set sail for the western hemisphere for the first time.

He would make two (perhaps even three) voyages, sailing for Spain and for Portugal. On these voyages, he ranged widely along the South American coast and into the Caribbean. It's probable, though not certain, that he made it to the Amazon and may even have gotten as far as Cape St. Augustine. 

The wily navigator made his most significant scientific contribution to the Age of Discovery when, through astronomical observations off the coast of South America, he confirmed that the lands Columbus had encountered were not Asia but were in fact an entirely separate continent.

The letters he wrote describing his travels were published and widely distributed in Europe.

Vespucci owes the use of his name for two continents to the German clergyman and scholar Martin Waldseemüller, who had read of Amerigo's travels and chose to call the new lands "America" in his honor when printing a wood-block map.